Jutting out above the rive (waterfront) from the molo (pier) 23 is Trieste’s unofficial mascot, URSUS. A piece of industrial archeology dating back to 1913, it is one of the largest and oldest floating steel cranes in the world. Outfitted with an electrical system, motors and 2 rudders, the crane is equipped with an arm able to reach a height of 70 meters which can lift 150 tons. The surface of the floating pontoon (with double bottom) is 1,164 square meters, nearly 54 meters long by 24 wide with a minimum draft of 2,5 meters, weighing 2,090 tons…. IT’S BIG!
Over the years, Ursus was used in naval and coastal construction projects. It was also used to lift relics and mines off the ocean floor. During the Yugoslavian occupation, Tito tried to move Ursus to Jugoslavia but was stopped by a British battleship. Eventually, the crane was retired in 1994.
More recently, the structure, whose base offers both functional outdoor and indoor spaces, has been used to house art exhibits and theater performances. In 2016, the city invested 5 million Euro to give Ursus a “facelift”. Ursus has become such an iconic symbol of the City of Trieste that it has even been prominently featured in several films and TV series including, La Porta Rossa (RAI TV), Il Ragazzo Invisibile I & II (films by Salvatores). Currently the tip of the crane has been home for the last 160-some-odd days to protester, Marcello di Finizio, a local businessman who lost his livelihood (a small beach club. La Voce della Luna) and who sits 80 meters above the city under, sun, storms and wind to protest for the interests of small business owners threatened under the EU’s Bolkenstein Directive.
In 2011, the people of Trieste were shocked and dismayed when Ursus was “taken” by the Bora, as hurricane strength winds ripped it from its moorings. It had to be rescued by a fleet of tugboats which lassoed it and brought it back to shore.
The city has been looking to officially recognize Ursus as Trieste’s mascot and make it a tourist attraction. Plans being floated include adding:
> an elevator to bring tourists to the top for a spectacular view of the city
> a waterfront restaurant
> indoor exhibition space
> overall illumination
Official or not, Ursus is our city’s mascot; it is an iconic piece in the City’s skyline and it is beloved by all of Trieste.